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The Shire (TA 2990, 1890 SA)
Merry woke up to the gentle jostling of his mother’s favorite pony, Rosebud. He looked up at his mum and said, “How much longer till we get to Tuckborough, mum. I’m hungry.”
Esmeralda looked down at the curly mop hair of her son and ruffled it a bit, “It won’t be long now, my little love. But,” she rustled around her skirts with her hand not encumbered by rein or little hobbit, “I brought you this for the trip,” She handed him a linen tied parcel. Merry’s eyes lit up as he untied the linen which revealed a berry seedcake, a specialty of Poppy, their cook back in Buckland. “Thanks Mum,” he mumbled through half the cake that had already found its way into his mouth.
Esmeralda laughed and said, “You are welcome! My little muffin!” and kissed the top of his mop-top. After finishing the seed cake Merry dozed again only to be roused for a second time by his mum. Merry rubbed his bleary eyes and saw they had arrived at Great Smials. He looked around and saw the town surroundings of Tuckborough with its low-slung buildings lining nice wide streets. Underneath it all were the many tunnels of The Took’s ancestral home, Great Smials. He dismounted from the pony with help from his Mum and immediately looked around at the lay of the land.
The Tooks and Brandybucks were related through his mum. He did not quite know all the details, but he did not need to know that to know that Great Smials was always great fun to visit; he went exploring all the tunnels that he was not supposed, but to his way of thinking folks need to learn and how better than by a bit of exploring, usually on his own because his aunt and uncle only had girls. And they were no fun. Always fussing about this and that and complaining about getting dirty. But this visit things might change. His aunt Eglantine had once again called the families together as she was going to give birth and Eglantine was family and Esmeralda always came when family called, whether for good fortune or bad.
Apparently, some test had been performed over Eglantine and everyone said it was going to be a boy. In Eglantine’s last letter he remembered his Mum reading the letter to his Da that the ring had swung back and forth, clearly the sign for a boy. His Da said “Merry my lad! What do you think of that! You’re going to have a cousin! A young lad apparently!”
Merry remembered being very excited. “You think it is true?”
Esmeralda stating matter-of-factly, “Well Muffin! The Ring test is very nearly never wrong!”
So from that day to this Merry had been very excited.
Uncle Paladin was there at the door to Great Smials, “Welcome, Welcome! Wonderful to see you three again. Eglantine would be here to greet you as well, but she is a tad busy at the moment!” He clapped Merry on the back and stated jovially, “ Merry, my lad! Looking forward to meet your new little cousin!”
“Am I? “ Merry nodded enthusiastically.
Esmeralda looked a little disappointed, “Has she--?’ She had been hoping to help her cousin with the birthing.
Paladin held up a one hand, “Nope, no. She is only just starting, at least that is what Primrose said. But I don’t rightly know the details…” He looked at Saradoc with a look that said “And I don’t want to know!” Saradoc returned a look that said, “I quite agree.”
Merry noted this male communication and thought that if his Da and his uncle did not want to know then he did not, either.
Esmeralda broke into all this male conversation, with good hobbit sense. “Rightly so. Men folk have no business with the birthing” At this she covered Merry’s ears, as she said, “Only in the making!” Her eyes twinkling. Merry heard the words nonetheless, but still had no idea what they were talking about. “Right!” Esmeralda proclaimed, “Enough of this foolishness! Longo! Bring our travel chests in and set them up in our usual rooms,” She looked to Paladin for confirmation. He held his hands up, “Yes, Yes, by all means.” He looked at Saradoc, again in silent communication, “Do I have a choice?” Saradoc’s face reflected quiet amusement at the commandeering tenor of his wife’s voice as he shook his head. Esmeralda, in full command mode now, was directing the servants as to what needed to be done and was completely ignoring the two gentlehobbits. Saradoc said under his voice, “She’s your sister…did you really think you were in charge here?”
Paladin chuckled lightly, “I had thought so but clearly that is not the case.” He looked down at Merry, “Merry-my lad! It is nearly teatime! This could take some time so we had best fortify ourselves for the wait.”
He then escorted them into the library where other gentlehobbits milled about smoking pipes and downing half pints of ale. Clearly, Merry concluded, waiting was a man’s job in this whole birthing business. And it seemed that waiting involved tea and cake. All seemed right with the world. He could wait until his little cousin was ready to be presented to the world if tea and cakes were involved.
After a considerable amount of said tea and cakes had been consumed, Primrose came into the study and announced that Uncle Paladin was indeed and finally father to a small but perfect baby son. Much cheering, glad-handing and backslapping occurred for much of the next half an hour. Paladin the proud father had produced a son and heir. To Merry’s eye he looked happy and just a little terrified at the same moment. He mentioned as much to his Da and his Da, who was just a little tipsy said, “Merry, my lad. I was the same way with you!” Merry looked a little non-plussed, as only an eight-year-old could be when presented with such an idea. His Da looked at him and said, “Y’know, the little lad is going to need a lot of looking after if he is anything like his Da when he was a lad. He gadded about hither and thither getting into all sorts of scrapes. The little lad is going to need to someone to show him the ropes, you see. And Well, as his older cousin, Merry, my lad I think that job falls to you. To help him out and get him out of trouble, you see!”
Merry took it all it in and was just itching to meet his new cousin. Primrose had said the menfolk could see the little one “as soon as the mother was ‘settled’” whatever that meant. He never thought of his Aunt Eglantine as “unsettled” she always seemed very calm and collected. He shook his head at “woman-talk.” Soon after the confusing words had been uttered it was deemed time to go and meet his new cousin.
Merry walked into his aunt and uncle’s bedchamber and sitting up in bed was his aunt looking really tired and really happy all at the same time. Next to the bed in the little crib, he finally got to see his new little cousin, Merry exclaimed, “he is so small…!” he reached in a finger in to the crib to touch the baby and blue eyes met blue eyes. Merry was enthralled, as the tiny hand tried to squeeze his finger. Merry spoke to his new cousin, “My lad,” calling the little one what everyone else called him, “I’m going to show you everything! The whole world! The things and places we will see! We shall have the most fun!” He felt a hand on his shoulder and he looked up to see his Uncle Paladin at his side.
“Well, if that is the case, then he should have a name befitting then shouldn’t he? To prepare him!” He looked at Eglantine, “what say we name him Peregrin. It means “traveler in strange countries! He is after all, a Took!” Eglantine smiled and thought for a beat, “Tis quite grand and fitting for his role in the world but for every day wear, we shall call him, Pippin! Does it suit, Merry-lad?’
Merry was as honoured as any eight-year-old would be, being asked such a question. He nodded, “Pippin is a fine name as any could be. Auntie.” He looked at the new little lad and said, “Do you like your name, Pippin? Will it do?” Pippin blew a spit bubble and gurgled and everyone laughed. It would do.
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